On Becoming Human is intended to reflect the futility of depending on our own strength, while offering the hope, beauty and fullness that is possible only through God’s peace. I used Irena Sendler as my model. Sendler was a Polish social worker who saved over 2,000 Jewish children from the Nazis during World War II.
Our call to become disciples of Christ is a lifelong journey and even for those who have accomplished important things, we must grow in our relationship and dependency on God. I have tried to communicate this by showing Sendler as an older woman, with a peaceful countenance that is only possible when we look to God for our purpose.
The discordant paper and metal coverings over the portrait represent the fruits of our own futile attempts at creating peace – with God, each other, and within ourselves. Ironically, rather than creating peace, these attempts mask or scar our true humanity. The transition to the vibrantly colored flowers represents our own transformation into the humans God created us to be.
For me, the pandemic has created an environment that has emboldened me to take more experimental approaches to creating encaustic portraiture. It has enabled me to better explore my subjects and express both the failings and spiritual potential in all of us. The portrait is an encaustic painting, and the mixed media pieces (sewn tea bags, muslin, Tyvek paper, and metal) are encased in encaustic wax.
The “spiritual forces of evil” Paul describes in Ephesians 6 were certainly at work in the Holocaust. All the armor metaphors provide assurances that we are not alone or defenseless, even when we face the darkest manifestations of evil. For “On Becoming Human,” I focused on 6:15 and the idea of the gospel of peace. The painting features a peaceful image of Irena Sendler, late in her life and many years after she risked great personal peril to save over 2,000 Jewish children during the holocaust.
The good news of Christ is the only way to realize peace even when life’s journey brings us face to face with evil (even if we never have to deal with a force as evil as the holocaust). It is a peace that passes all understanding. The peace of God guards and guides us, reconciles our failings, and transforms us into the people He created us to be.
In His compassion, God has given us many gifts, tools, and protections to help us on our human journey. While each part of the armor is important, the gospel of peace is fundamental to any Christian’s purpose. To this end Jesus gifts believers: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27)
Throughout history, humans have continually tried to achieve peace on our own terms. Peace with each other and peace within ourselves has eluded us across cultures and across time. However, God’s peace is different. The good news of the gospel, that Jesus died for our sins so that we can be in right relationship with God, brings peace to all humanity. This is the cornerstone of the Christian faith, and without it, there is no hope for our future.
While peace with God realigns our eternal lives, the peace of God is transformative during our time here on earth. The peace of God guards us: Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7).
Frederick Buechner, in The Sacred Journey: A Memoir of Early Days, stated, “You can survive on your own; you can grow strong on your own; you can prevail on your own; but you cannot become human on your own.” With God’s help, this peace, this divine gift, helps us navigate our lives here on earth, reshaping us into a new and true definition of what it is to be human.
My piece, On Becoming Human, reflects our feeble attempts at living, compared to living life with the help of God. His peace guards, guides, and transforms us into who we were created to be. The tea-stained paper and metal flowers on the right side of the painting represent the shadowy reflections and implications of our attempts which can mar and conceal our true humanity. The growth and flowers on the left side represent how God’s peace can help us transform and flourish as we fulfill God’s purpose for us.
To see further examples of my work or to contact me about purchasing a piece, go to www.visualpoetrybygina.com.
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